After six seasons together, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and swingman Branko Lazic have signed on for two more. The team also announced that Lazic, who is the longest-tenured player with the team, will serve as the team's new captain.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade is coming off another memorable campaign, which turned into one of the most successful in club history. Zvezda entered the season coming off a historic EuroLeague playoff appearance, but got off to a slow start that saw the team lose three home games and fall to 5-8. Zvezda bounced back with back-to-back home wins over a pair of powerhouses – Real Madrid and reigning champion CSKA Moscow – and then went on to have a dream month of January during which it strung together road wins in Kaunas, Vitoria and Tel Aviv, while defeating eventual champion Fenerbahce Istanbul and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens in front of its home crowd. Big man Ognjen Kuzmic earned January MVP honors as Zvezda’s seven-game winning streak catapulted it into the playoff race, and back-to-back wins over Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul and Brose Bamberg saw Zvezda’s record improve to 14-10 for a share of fifth place in the standings. However, the team lost three of its next four games and was faced with a do-or-die Round 30 contest against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul for eighth place. A 78-62 loss dropped Zvezda to 16-14 and bounced it out of the playoffs on a tiebreaker. A heartbreaking ending in the EuroLeague left no marks on Zvezda domestically. The team won the Serbian Cup in February and beat Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in the semifinals and swept Cedevita Zagreb in the best-of-five finals to capture its third consecutive Adriatic League crown. Zvezda completed its season with a third straight Serbian League title, sweeping its way through the playoffs and dominating the finals against FMP Zeleznik to win a triple-crown for the second time in three seasons.
Crvena Zvezda, which translates as Red Star, was among the most-crowned teams in the former Yugoslavia. The club was founded in 1945 and already a year later had started its domination by winning the first of its 10 straight titles. Zvezda continued winning trophies in bunches in the early 1970s when it claimed a national championship, three domestic cups and the 1974 Saporta Cup – its lone European trophy to date – all in a span of five years. The next two decades were not as fruitful. Zvezda had to wait until 1993 to win another Yugoslav crown, but it repeated the success twice more in the 1990s. Over the years Zvezda had the privilege of being guided by some of Europe's coaching greats – including Aleksandar Nikolic, Ranko Zeravica and Svetislav Pesic , and developed some of Europe's finest talents, like Zoran Slavnic, Dejan Tomasevic, Igor Rakocevic, Nemanja Bjelica and Predrag Stojakovic. A return to winning at the continental level came in 2006 and 2007 when Milan Gurovic led Zvezda to the ULEB Cup quarterfinals, where it lost against eventual champions Dynamo Moscow and Real Madrid. In 2013, Zvezda won its first of three consecutive Serbian Cups, and in the 2013-14 season made its Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debut. Even though a 4-6 regular season record was not enough to advance from a tough group with eventual champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Zvezda continued its journey in the EuroCup and reached the semifinals, where it lost a two-game series against Unics Kazan. The club returned to compete against Europe’s elite and lived through some of the proudest moments in its 70-year old history. Led by big man Boban Marjanovic, in 2014-15 Zvezda reached the Euroleague Top 16 for the first time ever and won its first triple crown, lifting trophies in all three other competitions it entered that season – the Adriatic League, Serbian League and Serbian Cup. The following season, Zvezda went a step further in the EuroLeague, reaching the playoffs, and putting up a great fight despite being ousted in three games by eventual champion CSKA Moscow. Zvezda went on to win two of three domestic trophies, sweeping Mega Leks in the Adriatic League finals before taking its second straight Serbian League title by beating archrival Partizan Belgrade 3-1 in the best-of-five final series. After coming just short of another EuroLeague playoff appearance last season, but winning a domestic triple crown, Zvezda and its army of faithful fans will be as motivated as ever in the upcoming campaign, well aware that the season is set to climax at the 2018 Final Four in Belgrade.